Greater Des Moines Lakes

Nothing says summer like a day at the lake. Whether you enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, or simply relaxing along a sandy shore, Greater Des Moines area lakes have it all. With scenic cliffs, flowing waterways and rolling hills, you’ll find that a day on the water is just what you need. The whole family will enjoy fun in the sun on a pontoon with a picnic at Saylorville Lake, and avid fishers can try their craft at the Banner Lakes in Summerset State Park. With our guide to Greater Des Moines lakes, there’s no telling what kind of fun you’ll find!  


Big Creek Marina 

Big Creek Marina is a perfect stop in Greater Des Moines for some family-friendly outdoor activities. Rent anything from a 15-passenger pontoon boat to a stand-up one-person paddle boat at the boat rental shop. They also offer a beach, playground, and areas to grill. Bring the whole family, including your four-legged friends! 

Blue Heron Lake 

This 232-acre lake is located in the heart of Raccoon River Park, providing boat access to fishing enthusiasts and water lovers. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, it’s home to a wide variety of species of fish. Head over to the swim beach for a great way to cool off on a hot day. 

Carney Marsh Nature Preserve 

This park, founded by the Polk County Conservation Board, is home to Iowa’s celebrated and diverse wildlife in trees and water. This marsh is a quiet, scenic spot for birdwatchers or fishers of all skill levels to come and get a great catch in a preserved natural habitat. 

Easter Lake 

Pack your sunscreen for an afternoon of swimming at Easter Lake. This 178-acre lake is the centerpiece of a beautiful park with playgrounds and picnic shelters surrounding the water. Enjoy the swimming beach during a warm summer day in Iowa and pack a picnic for lunch while you’re at it! 

Gray’s Lake Park 

Walk or ride along the 1.9-mile trail that encircles the lake. During the day, rent or bring your canoe or sailboat to drift around Gray’s Lake. At night, head to the trail and take in the downtown Des Moines skyline from the colorfully illuminated bridge.  

Lake Ahquabi  

“Ahquabi” is a Sauk and Fox word meaning “resting place,” a fitting name for this beautiful lake. The tranquil sounds of the water with the sun shining overhead makes this the perfect place to sit back and relax. Lake Ahquabi offers a large sandy beach along its shore for swimming or boat, canoe, or kayak rentals for those who wish to explore a little more.  

Maffitt Reservoir 

Cast your line out on the Maffitt Reservoir, a 200-acre lake sitting among tall oak trees overlooking the Des Moines Water Treatment Plant. Nature lovers and anglers have enjoyed the calm, quiet serenity of this lake where a multitude of fish and wildlife call home. 

Saylorville Lake 

Stop by the equipment rental house and check out boats, paddleboards, explorer tandems, and more at Saylorville Lake. Head over to the other side of Saylorville and check out the dam or spillway. Hundreds of gallons of water rush through the dam every minute but don’t stand too close; you might get wet!  

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